In November of 2007, these two strikingly similar Rothko’s came on the market. Recently, Lindsay Pollock reported that the one on the left–which sold for $12.1m–was consigned by the Pappajohn’s and bought by the Fertitta’s. Take that dealer gossip for what it is worth (most likely accurate) but then try to figure out the slight price differential because the one on the right sold for $10.6m the day before.
Both paintings come from the same late moment in the artist’s career. Both have solid provenance. The one on the left was owned by Ad Reinhardt. The one on the right passed through Galerie Beyeler and Anthony D’Offay. We can’t give you condition reports but the prices are not so far apart as to suggest one was much better condition than the other.
There is, of course, the sale order to consider. But the Sotheby’s picture (on the left) sold the day after the Christie’s painting. It could be the competition heated up when buyers saw the strength of the first sale. Or Sotheby’s could simply have sold the better picture. Either way, the sale is unlikely to be repeated again any time soon.